Human Rights Watch has condemned the deportation by Malaysia of a Thai activist, who is wanted in her home country for her anti-monarchy views.
In a statement this morning, the international NGO’s Asia director Brad Adams expressed concern that Praphan Pipithnamporn, who is an asylum seeker registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), could face persecution in Thailand.
Praphan fled to Malaysia in January this year, after the Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant against her, accusing her of sedition and organised crime over her involvement in the Organization for Thai Federation, a group that is critical of the monarchy and calls for a republic on social media.
She then applied for refugee status with UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur, and on April 2, the refugee agency registered her claim as an asylum seeker and designated her a ‘person of concern’.
However, Praphan was arrested by the Malaysian police on April 24, at the request of their Thai counterparts, and was sent back to Bangkok on May 10, where Adams said she is likely to face an unfair trial.
“Malaysia’s flouting of international law has placed a Thai activist at grave risk of arbitrary detention and an unjust prosecution in Thailand.
“Malaysian authorities have an obligation to protect asylum seekers like Praphan from being forcibly returned to the risk of being persecuted for their peaceful political views,” Adams said, adding that prior to her fleeing to Malaysia, Praphan had faced intimidation from Thai authorities.
He said Praphan was arrested several times between September and December 2018, and held incommunicado under military detention. Threats against Praphan intensified after she participated in a peaceful anti-monarchy activity during the birthday memorial for the late King Rama IX on Dec 5 last year.
“On that day, she wore a black T-shirt with a logo of her group and handed out leaflets criticising the monarchy at a Bangkok shopping mall.”
Adams noted that under customary international law, Malaysia is obligated to ensure that no one is forcibly sent to a place where they would risk being subjected to persecution, torture or other serious human rights violations.